2007 was the first in over twenty years that a new recording of Idil Biret was not released on CD. But, the backlog of recorded works waiting for release was impressive. These were the three Tchaikovsky Concertos, the two Liszt Concertos and the Totentanz, the Concertos of Grieg and Schumann and the 32 Beethoven Sonatas now completed and being edited. During the year it was decided to issue all these and future recordings of Idil on her own label Idil Biret Archives (IBA) and distribute them both digitally for downloading and as CDs on the internet and shops worldwide using the services of a major distributor. More information on this work will be available on Idil’s website soon.
The year was rich in printed works. Following the appearance of her book “A Turkish Pianist in France” published by Buchet-Chastel in 2006, translations appeared in Turkey published by “Can Yayınları” in June and in Germany in September published by “Staccatto Verlag”. In June a signature day was organized in Paris by Buchet/Chastel where Idil signed her book and the recently issued Alpha CD with concertos of Massenet and Franck. The work on the new edition of Chopin’s complete piano scores also advanced with the New York publisher International Music Company (IMC) issuing the Tarantella and the Bolero during the year. The edit work on the two Rondos op.1 and op.5 was also completed with a publication target of February 2008.
The concert activities once again reached far flung places from the beautiful city of Van in eastern Turkey with snow capped mountains throwing their shadows on the calm waters of its lake to New Orleans, a city still trying to recover from the tragic consequences of the Katrina storm that destroyed much of it some years ago. In February during the US tour she gave a recital in New Orleans and two concerts with the Louisiana Philharmonic performing Chopin’s E minor concerto. The second of these concerts became, as the local press reported, the first sold out concert of the orchestra in New Orleans since the storm which decimated the orchestra and its public destroying also the Philharmonic Hall. Another memorable event from the US trip was the recital at the historic Herbst Memorial Hall in San Francisco where she played an all Chopin recital to a capacity audience. The next day Idil visited the Muir forest near SF where some of the oldest giant Sequoia trees are, dating back thousand years or more. A week of much needed rest followed in Hawaii at the Maui island’s Waikiki beach which she greatly likes. Britain was the next favourite place for concerts with three visits, two for concerts in London with a recital for the Chopin Society in October and then a concert in November at the St. George Cathedral to perform the Rachmaninov Concerto no.2, much loved in England since it became the theme music of the film “A Brief Encounter” in 1946. Another highlight concert of the year was the recital in Germany at the Nordkirchen Castle near Münster in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of Naxos where she also signed copies of the German version of her book which had just been released.
There were also many concerts and other activities in Turkey. A most memorable one was at Van University where Idil went to perform at the request of the University Rector who had been under attack from reactionary forces in the city. Idil brought along a concert grand piano as a gift to the university bought with the support of a sponsor. Sadly, it was learnt that posters announcing her concert hung at the university’s student dormitories (run by the Ministry of Education) had been removed by some unknown people who were apparently disturbed by her visit to the school. Nevertheless, the concert hall was packed full on the recital day. Other concerts took place in Ankara, Eskisehir, Antalya, Bursa, Izmir and Istanbul where she gave two performances at the festival. At the opening day of the Istanbul Festival in June she played Bach’s Concerto for two pianos with the gifted child pianist, eleven year old Mertol Demirelli. She later gave a recital at the festival after which she signed copies of her book which was just released in Turkey. In September Idil played another Bach Concerto (D Minor) at the antique theater of Phaselis near Antalya. In July she gave a week-long series of master classes to gifted young piano students at the music academy in Ayvalık at its beautiful location on the shore of the Aegean sea.
There were also participations in the juries of two piano competitions, the Busoni Competition in Bolzano Italy in August and the Scottish Competition in Glasgow in September. From Glasgow she took a side trip to go to the Hebrides to visit Staffa island and its famous Fingal’s cave with Mendelssohn’s music in her ears while sailing in a stormy sea.
Voice of Turkey (Türkiyenin Sesi) Radio broadcast from Ankara a most interesting series of twelve programs from October to December. Each week there was a different program in ten languages including Hungarian, Romanian, Russian, Georgian, Greek and Chinese, describing Idil’s life and work and playing excerpts from her many recordings.
The crowning event of the year was the presentation of a medal of distinguished service to Idil for her services to the culture of Poland with her performances of Chopin and the recording of his complete works which had sold over one million copies worldwide. The Polish president Lech Kaczynski decorated Idil with the medal “Kryzem Kawalerskim Orderu Zaslugi Rzeczypopolitej Polskiej” at a ceremony in January. In the letter informing Idil Biret that she would receive the medal, the Polish Ambassador to Turkey, Grzegorz Michalski, wrote
“Music of Chopin has always been a symbol of our national culture. Polish in its very essence it is beloved Poland, recognizable all over the world…In our view playing Chopin…means translating a part of Polish culture to the outside world. We are deeply convinced that your artistic achievements, your input in the promotion of Polish music in general and Chopin’s music in particular deserve to be commemorated. It has become a tradition to honor those foreign artists who by their life and artistic achievements help consolidate the universal dimension of Polish culture. Therefore, it is our intention to express our gratitude for your contribution granting you a medal of the Republic of Poland. ”
Later, in June, Istanbul Festival gave their annual award of artistic merit to Idil and the violinist Ayla Erduran at the opening of the festival presented to them by the legendary Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer.
2008 will be another busy year. Idil will open the year with a recital on January 8 for the benefit of the Turkish Armed Forces’ Foundation “Mehmetçik Vakfı” at the newly opened historic Süreyya Hall in Kadıköy, Istanbul. In January Idil will perform all the five piano concertos of Beethoven with the Bilkent University Orchestra in Ankara conducted by Antoni Wit, the music director of the Warsaw Philharmonic. Biret and Wit will then record all the five Concertos and the Choral Fantasy for release on the IBA label as part of the 20 CD series with the 32 Sonatas and the 9 Symphonies’ piano transcriptions by Liszt. Idil will later travel to Poland in April to perform the Schumann Concerto with the Warsaw Philharmonic. She will repeat the concerto performance in Lublin and then give a recital in Gdansk. Among the concerts of the year are also recitals in New Orleans and Brussels where she will play the Ligeti Etudes. Work is also in progress for tours in Cuba and Vietnam. In June Idil will participate in the jury of the Sviatoslav Richter competition in Moscow, in July the Competition in New Orleans and then in October the Geneva Competition. January and February will be the months of concerts in Turkey with performances in Istanbul, Eskisehir, Ankara, Adana, Antakya and Izmir. Work will also progress on the new Chopin scores’ edition for IMC as well as the English translation of her book.
A few quotes from the year
“I will never forget Idil’s recital at the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow (1960). The audience went just wild with excitement.”
Viktoria Postnikova (pianist) Glasgow
“Dear Ms. Biret, I´m not sure that you´ll ever get this message, but I´m just writing to tell you that I have purchased your recording of the Chopin Works for Piano and Orchestra in São Paulo, Brazil, last week and I would like to tell you that I love your tempi and interpretation of these pieces. You are truly a great artist and may God bless you for your talent and musicality. I thank you for reminding me of the beauty of music, which is a language that cannot be expressed in words, as you know..Thank you for your attention.
Walter Asvolinsque Brasil
“We in Poland admire and praise the music of Chopin in a somewhat self congratulating manner. I was glad to hear today in another country similar words of praise and admiration of Chopin’s music from a distinguished musician.”
(Polish president Lech Kaczynski speaking at the reception after hearing Idil Biret’s speech at the ceremony where she was decorated with the Polish medal)